Comcast Shuts Off Customer's Internet Access For Phantom Data Usage

Jodi writes that while she doesn’t agree with Comcast’s habit of turning off customers’ Internet access due to “excessive usage,” while she’s their customer, she intends to play by their rules. This would be a lot easier if her usage meter didn’t indicate that her household used more bandwidth than should have been technically feasible.

She fired off this letter to a customer service contact for people who have problems related to excessive bandwidth use.

As I understand it, you are a manager at Comcast who is in charge of handling excessive use problems and related customer service issues, so I am directing this message to you in hopes that you can ensure that appropriate action is taken.

Earlier this month, I had my Internet shut off due to “excessive usage.” My household had recently upped its use of streaming video and whatnot, so, even though it came as as a big surprise to me that we had used so much bandwidth, I didn’t think anything of it and agreed to curtail the “excessive” usage. At the time, Comcast made a meter available on my customer profile so that I could monitor usage, which was helpful. As of September 15th, the meter showed usage of 15GB of the allowed 250GB for the month of September, so I didn’t think that this was going to be a recurring problem in any way. Nevertheless, everyone in my household was still judicious with the use of the Internet just in case.

As such, I was extraordinarily surprised when I checked the meter on September 27th to see that the meter reported that I was over the limit again at about 256GB. This is particularly perplexing because it implies that I’ve used 241GB of bandwidth in 12 days. According to the Comcast web site, your service offers 6mbps maximum download speeds, or about 750KB per second. This means that my service can download a maximum of 2.7GB per hour. In order to reach the 241GB of usage in 12 days, I would have had to have been downloading at full speed for almost 90 hours, or about 7.5 hours per day. I can assure you that this is not what my household was doing.

Once I realized that my household was again over the limit, I double checked to make sure that there were no unauthorized machines using my service. There weren’t, which is not surprising since my network is password protected and I use a MAC address filter on the router as an added precaution.

Because I am now acutely aware of the issue and am concerned about my service being suspended, I have been checking the meter on the Comcast web site almost daily. Sometimes it shows a reasonably normal increase of around 1GB/day, but other days the usage is reported as being completely off the charts. For example, usage during an overnight period was reported as 2GB even though I shut off all of the Internet-enabled devices. In addition, usage for September 29th is reported as 16GB (an increase from 263GB to 279GB), even though no one but my dog was even home to use the Internet. (16GB is even an impossibly large amount of puppy porn.)

I completely understand Comcast’s policy regarding excessive usage, and, while I do not agree with the ethics of the policy due to the fact that I have no other cable options available to me, I am in no way trying to argue the policy. I also understand that the Terms of Service state that the meter is independently verified by a third party, but that is not entirely relevant to this situation. Instead, the point that I have been trying to make to Comcast customer service is that the usage meter is not metering the usage for my account correctly, and the details above pretty clearly show that to be the case. Everyone at Comcast (including the legal department, which I did in fact speak to) agrees that something is not right with this situation, but the associates who actually have the power to investigate and rectify the situation are stubbornly refusing to do so. Therefore, if I cannot get this matter resolved through the appropriate Comcast channels, I will have no other option but to file complaints with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office and the Better Business Bureau.

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